Yi Gang, who was “unexpectedly” appointed to serve as new governor of the People's Bank of China (PBOC) on March 19, could soften the institution’s stance towards cryptocurrencies, given his previously reported positive views on Bitcoin (BTC).

According to reports from Chinese media, Yi spoke about Bitcoin at the end of 2013, when he said that the major cryptocurrency cannot be legally recognized by the PBOC in the near future. At the same time, he recognized the transactional potential of Bitcoin, adding that, “ordinary people have the freedom to participate.”

In contrast with the negative stance of PBOC’s deputy governor Pan Gongsheng in December 2017, who argued that Bitcoin “will die”, Yi stated at the time that Bitcoin is “inspiring”, and that it will remain a subject of public attention in the long term.

Yi will take the post of former PBOC governor Zhou Xiaochuan as decided by the National People’s Congress. On March 9, Zhou said that the development of digital currency is “technologically inevitable,” but the banking system still does not accept cryptocurrency as payment.

According to Tommy Xie, China economist at OCBC Bank in Singapore, Yi is one of “the main driver[s] to China's [economic] reform in the past few years." Taking into account both Yi’s support of economic reforms and favorable stance towards crypto, the new PBOC appointment could signal the possibility of a new regulatory approach to cryptocurrencies in China.

For now, China continues its hardline stance on cryptocurrencies, with bans on crypto-fiat exchanges, Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs), and since last month, a ban on all foreign cryptocurrency exchanges.